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Archive for the ‘mathematics’ Category

On myth, magic, rare canned meats, and mathematics

Tuesday, February 9th, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — a tale of Guru Nanak — & the things you can buy on Amazon these days ]

Painting by PM Wylam of Guru Nanak Dev Ji as a young boy

It is said that in his schooldays, young Nanak who, as Guru Nanak, would go on to found the Sikh religion was in math class when the numbers one, two, three and so forth fourth were explained, and objected when the teacher began to talk about two, on the grounds that he hadn’t yet fully grapsped the number one.



Putting that another way, the number one is at least as fascinating in its own possibities as it is with the series of integers that follows it — you may recall my earlier discussions of one and its possible opposites in earlier posts:



Here the conversation takes a completely different turn..

It’s in the spirit of that kind of mythematical — or perhaps better in this case, mathemagical — thinking that I offer this equation:

Unicorn plus dragon meat

I’m inclined to think they’d somehow cancel, or at the very least balance, each other out. I wonder whether Amazon has an algorithm that knows that, yet.

Really, I had no idea one could buy dragon’s meat in a can, nor that of unicorns.


I found out about canned unicorn and dragon while while reading up on Tactical Bacon in a spell of NSFW research on the Malheur business:

tactical bacon

Oy, the world we live in.

On the orthogonality of rabbit and duck

Monday, February 1st, 2016

[ by Charles Cameron — a brief comic digression about them and us ]

Generally, we’re stuck with this:

It is a good one, I’ll admit.

I’m inclined, however, to agree with this analysis on occasion:

What I hadn’t realized, though, is that the theriomorphic rabbit and duck divinities in question are orthogonally related:

Very clever!


Two sides to every coin, two hands for every koan?

Two wrongs make a right or wrong — in theory?

Sunday, November 15th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — on the (Pythagorean) arithmetic of morals ]

Extermination_of_Evil_Sendan_Kendatsuba 600

Sendan Kendatsuba, one of the guardians of Buddhist law, banishing evil, Tokyo National Museum


What’s right is generally supposed to be positive, while what’s wrong is seen as negative — and as they saying goes, two wrongs don’t make a right.

In effect, that’s saying two negatives don’t make a positive. And if you add them, that’s correct.

But if you multiply two negatives, you get a positive — hunh?

So two wrongs can indeed make a right — that’s the mathematics of vengeance — multiplicative:

And thine eye shall not pity; but life shall go for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

— Deuteronomy 19.13

And it is also true that two wrongs don’t make a right — that’s a mathematics that denies vengeance — additive.

And then there’s the mathematics of forgiveness :

Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.

— Romans 12.21

Patient men, desirous of the Face of their Lord, who perform the prayer, and expend of that We have provided them, secretly and in public, and who avert evil with good — theirs shall be the Ultimate Abode

— Qur’an 13.22

And what’s most interesting to me in all this, is that the mathematical formulations, additive and multiplicative alike, don’t make a feature of time — where as their moral equivalents tend to introduce time into the equation / situation — in each case, it’s the response to evil, real or potential, that is considered.

It is more important to have equations in your beauty..

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — musings on PAM Dirac and Hedy Lamarr ]

PAM Dirac once famously said, “it is more important to have beauty in one’s equations that to have them fit experiment.” I was reminded of that quotation while musing over this DoubleQuote in the Wild celebrating the birthday yesterday of Hedy Lamarr — stunningly symmetrical movie star and frequency-hopping inventor:

Hedy Lamarr DQ Wild

To the left, the beauty herself, and to the right, the equations in the beauty — if one may take the liberty of saying that thoughts are “in” their thinker’s body — shown here in the form of the patent application Lamarr and composer George Antheil submitted fora “a system for the radio control of airborne torpedoes”.

I put that last phrase in quotes because that’s the way a New York Times piece described their joint invention. Me, I haven’t the foggiest about their inner workings, whereas the outer face of Hedy Lamarr I can see with utmost clarity.

The Astounding Case of the Unequal Equals

Tuesday, November 10th, 2015

[ by Charles Cameron — how two ideas beget a third ]

I’m a Brit, so the motto Mind the Gap is familiar to me — it warns people not to step between platform and train when entering or exiting the Tube

underground_2504657b mind the gap

— as is the London Underground symbol — and for that matter, the glyph for female, earlier the alchemical symbol of Venus.


Today’s Telegraph contains a graphic that interests me a whole lot, under the title Equal Pay Day: 14 ways to visualise the gender pay gap:

telegraph mind the gap


Does it interest me because I’m a fan of the London Underground? Not exactly. The Underground’s graphics, then? I’ll admit to an admiration for the Underground’s justifiably celebrated map


— which I’ve long thought would make a superb extended HipBone Game board, shown above in its 1968 incarnation. But that’s not it either. And although I don’t think gender should influence the pay a person receives for a given quantity or quality of work — Quant and Qualit again, one of the weirdst paradoxes my min d has ever encountered — it’s not the politics of the sign that interests and delights me.


It’s the way two disparate elements — tube and gender graphics — are combined to create a remarkably powerful third:

SPEC DQ mind the gap

It’s a simple, elegant illustration of the intersection of two sets of ideas that Arthur Koestler talked about and that I’m constantly drawing on in my own work:

And yes, I’m aware that technically the equation I’m pointing to happened in two stages, with the substitution of the phrase “mind the gap” for the word “underground” in the blue bar of the tube logo — but the bar was also used, among other things, for the names of individual stations, so I don’t consider that much of a creative leap.

No, it’s the juxtaposition of underground logo with the gender sign by means of a conflation of their respective circles that’s impressive, coupled with the pun on the gender-specific and underground meanings of “mind the gap”.

That’s the very essence of the intersections Koestler was talking about, and illustrates as vividly as I know how, the power released by such an intersection.


Oh, and yes — fair play clearly requires fair pay.

And it’s Hedy Lamarr‘s birthday, dammit.

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